I came across this fabulous passage from N.T. Wright while doing research for a recent sermon. I couldn’t find a place to use it this time, but I’m posting it here, with a few extra bracketed lines I added to fill in the ideas.
It’s from the conclusion of The New Testament and the People of God, p.425
The New Testament writers claim that, though there is only one god, all human beings of themselves cherish wrong ideas ABOUT this one god. In worshipping the god thus wrongly conceived, they worship an idol. Pagans worship gods of wood and stone, distorting the creator by worshipping the creature. Jews, Paul argues in parallel with this, have made an idol of their own national identity and security, and so have failed to see what the covenant faithfulness of their god, the god of Abraham, had always entailed.
Both [Christians and Jews] might, of course, be wrong. the Stoics might be right: there is one god, since the whole world id divine, and we humans are part of it. The Epicureans, and their modern successors the Deists, might be right: there is a god, or possibly more than one, whom none of us knows very well and all of us distantly acknowledge, with ignorance and distortion. The pagans might be right: there are different ‘divine’ forces in the world, which need to be propitiated when angry, and harnessed to one’s own advantage when not, The Gnostics might be right: there is a good, hidden god who will reveal himself to some of us, thereby rescuing us from this wicked world of matter and flesh, which are the creation of an evil god Or the modern atheists or materialists might be right. [There is nothing but the atoms that make up the earth and the little electrical impulses in your brain providing an illusion of meaning.] There is no neutral ground here. We are at the level of worldview, and here ultimate choices are involved.
The claim of Christianity from its earliest days, and subsequently, is that the creator of the world, the god of Abraham, has revealed himself through Jesus, and through his own spirit, in ways which disallow the various pagan claims [and the claims of everyone else].
This conclusion is of course unpalatable in a world (our own)…